Bodies of the three labourers exhumed last week

Seventy seven days after they were killed in a ‘fake encounter’ in Shopian, the bodies of three labourers from Rajouri were exhumed early morning on Saturday from the graveyard meant for unknown burials in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district and handed over to their families in presence of senior officials of police and administration.

An official said that in the wee hours, the bodies were exhumed even as the families of the slain trio had reached Srinagar late night Friday.

Abdul Majid, the gravedigger who had buried the trio back in July, told a local news agency that upon exhuming, the bodies were surprisingly fresh and odourless.

“They had not decomposed, which is a rare sight. I draped them in a fresh shroud for their burial at Rajouri,” said Majid.

The Kashmir Monitor was the first newspaper to report the killing of the three labourers after a photograph of slain ‘militants’ bore uncanny resemblance to them.

Abrar Ahmad Khan (17) son of Bagga Khan, his brother-in-law Abrar Ahmad (25) son of Mohammad Yusuf, and their relative Imtiyaz Ahmad (20) son of Sabr Hussain, all residents of Peeri, Kotranka in Rajouri district, disappeared after they left home on July 16 to work as daily-wage labourers in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Over two weeks later, the families of the trio were shocked to see the purported picture of three alleged militants killed in an encounter at Amshipora village in the Shopian district on July 18.

Over two months later, the families of the slain received their bodies and laid them to rest in their native village in Rajouri amid sobs and tears.

The families said they will continue to demand an exemplary punishment to the army men involved in the ‘fake encounter’.

“Our struggle for justice will continue till guilty are punished,” said Muhammad Yousuf, father of Abrar Ahmed, one of the slain youths.

They trio thanked the Rajouri administration, police and media for helping them in bringing back the bodies.

The bodies of the slain trio were buried at a graveyard where almost 200 identified and unidentified militants are laid to rest.

Heavy contingents of police and CRPF were put in place to prevent media men and any large gathering at the graveyard. “It was a very silent exhumation,” a witness said.

Earlier, the families demanded for DNA reports and accordingly samples of six family members were taken. It took police around 40 days to come out with the results of DNA samples after which IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar stated that the samples of parents of three Rajouri youth had matched.

On September 18, in a brief statement, the Army had stated that the Shopian operation contravened the dos and don’ts of the Chief of Army Staff approved by the Supreme Court.

“The inquiry has brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded and the Do’s and Don’ts of Chief of Army Staff as approved by the Supreme Court have been contravened. “Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima-facie answerable,” the statement had said.

Soon after the army’s statement, the families of slain youth had demanded immediate exhumation of the bodies of their loved ones for proper burial at Rajouri. The three families from Rajouri had identified their sons through pictures that went viral on social media. The army had ordered a court of inquiry while police and the administration had been probing the case separately. On 25 September police also confirmed that three persons in Amshipora were labours of Rajouri.

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